In his first Newsmax TV interview since leaving Congress to lead the Heritage Foundation, former Sen. Jim DeMint said that Americans are smart enough to know that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech was nothing more “than a wish list that we can’t afford and that the president can’t get done.”
“He talked about a lot of wonderful things that we’d love to do as a country — improve education and clean up the blighted areas, create opportunity — but they can’t do that from Washington,” the former South Carolina Republican tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “There’s no evidence we ever could, and we can’t afford it.
“The president continues to think a central-planning concept is what makes America work — and we know it doesn’t,” DeMint adds. “You can’t do this from Washington. It’s really a ground-up phenomenon.”
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DeMint, 61, who takes over as the Heritage Foundation’s president in April, was interviewed by Newsmax with Edwin Feulner, a founding trustee and the outgoing president of the influential conservative think tank.
A tea party favorite, DeMint had been on Capitol Hill since 1999, serving six years in the House and seven in the Senate. Last year, Salon.com called him “perhaps the most conservative member of the Senate.”
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He was seen as a “kingmaker” with Republican congressional candidates because of his fund-raising prowess — and DeMint had said he would not seek a third term in the Senate when his term ended in 2016.
DeMint stepped down on Dec. 31. He was replaced by Rep. Tim Scott.
At the Heritage Foundation, DeMint will oversee a budget of $80 million.
In the Newsmax interview, Feulner says Americans also should not believe President Obama when he said that his initiatives would not add to the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt.
“That isn’t the way it works. There is no free money out there. Every time he talks about investments, basically, he’s talking about more government spending,” he says. “I don’t know where he thinks it’s coming from. There is no big tooth fairy in the sky that’s going to give it to him.”
Looking toward the upcoming battle over sequestration, DeMint hopes Congress and the president reach a deal before $1.2 trillion in broad-based cuts over 10 years begin to take effect.
“Unfortunately, with my 14 years in the House and the Senate, the only compromises I’ve ever seen were to spend more money and to grow the government. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. We have to stop spending more than we’re bringing in.
“I hope the Republicans will do what they promised and put the country on path to a balanced budget over the next 10 years,” DeMint adds. “They can give the president a little more to borrow in the interim — and we can transition so that it doesn’t disrupt programs.
“It just slows the growth and spending. We can do that. We can balance our budget. That’s what we need to shoot for.”
Both Heritage Foundation executives say they are most troubled at how Obama has subverted the U.S. Constitution with his steady use of executive orders.
“The president’s clearly challenging constitutional boundaries — and he’s doing it to rile the Republicans up and to get them going after him,” DeMint says. “But it’s a tough thing, and we need to do it through the courts.
“It’s worrisome that he believes so much in central power and executive power. That’s not what makes America great. We’re a bottom-up nation, with millions of people making their own decisions about what they want to do and what they value.
“He’s trying to turn that upside down — and that’s got a lot of people concerned,” DeMint adds.
The retired senator says he plans to keep the nation focused on such issues as Heritage’s president.
“I wanted to step outside the political arena — not to be partisan, but to work on those ideas that we know make America better and makes lives better for every American. We see them working all over the country.”
He pointed to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allows Washington schoolchildren to leave underperforming public schools for those of their parents’ choice. The program has a 91 percent high school graduation rate.
“All over the country, our ideas are working,” DeMint says. “Heritage is about ideas — and I want to be a part of taking those ideas to the American people.”
“We’ve been trying a number of different ways to figure out how to reach every American with the eternal principles that we really believe undergird our ideas,” Feulner adds. “We want everybody to know that these truths work for everybody.
“We want to bring everybody together and give everybody the chance of climbing up that opportunity ladder and not have the government cut the bottom two rungs off of that ladder.”
In other comments in their wide-ranging Newsmax interview, DeMint and Feulner say that:
Editor's Note: Read more of the interview with Jim DeMint:
- Heritage plans to “take control of the ideas and our message; work with hundreds of coalitions around the country to make sure Americans know which ideas work for them,” DeMint says.
- Working on the state level is critical to this success. “After all, they are the 50 laboratories of our federal system — and what works in Tallahassee probably is not going to work in Massachusetts,” Feulner says.
- Social media is crucial, too. “We have to use everything that’s available, in terms of electronic contacts with young people,” Feulner says. “We’ve got to retrain ourselves that these truths still work and we’ve got to be able to communicate them more successfully.”
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